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2 Days in New York, French filmmaker and actress Julie Delpy’s tangential follow-up to 2007’s 2 Days in Paris, moves at a sprint; indeed, this ebullient domestic comedy fairly radiates with a runner’s high.
Best known stateside as the firecracker Celine of Richard Linklater’s Before diptych (soon to be triptych, with sequel Before Midnight having just wrapped production in Greece), Delpy reprises her 2 Days in Paris role as Marion, a French photographer now settled in New York. The opening, told in puppet-show fashion to an unseen audience, fills in the gaps between pictures: Enjoyably neurotic Marion and her toddler Lulu (Shipman) share a brownstone apartment with boyfriend Mingus (Rock), an even-keeled Village Voice writer, and his death-obsessed daughter Willow (Riley). All isn’t domestic bliss; instead, this is a relatable rendering of the high-wire act that is juggling exes and steps, aging parents and the eternal cock block of a cat hacking up furballs in the boudoir.
But Marion and Mingus do seem happy – supportive, simpatico, and thriving with their blended family – until Marion’s recently widowed father Jeannot (played by Delpy’s real-life father Albert) arrives for a quick visit. Also in tow: Marion’s demented, exhibitionist sister Rose (Landeau, who co-wrote) and Rose’s dunderhead boyfriend, Manu (Nahon). Soon, Jeannot is puttering around the apartment – a smelly, cackling, ne-parle-pas-anglais père; idiot Manu tries to speak “brother” with Mingus (“‘Let’s talk about sex, bébé’?”); and the squabbling sisters screech in mile-a-minute, deliciously profane French. Mingus looks on with the horror of a human witnessing an alien invasion – and a man watching his lover sucked into the mothership. (And on the subject of Chris Rock: It’s boon enough having the semiretired comedian in front of the camera again; better yet, his dramatic work here is aces.)
2 Days in New York is never not funny; it’s also chaotic and caperish and hounded by a fathomless ache. (In an autobiographical storyline, Marion is struggling with the death of her mother and an existential crisis; Delpy’s own mother, the actress Marie Pillet, passed away in 2009.) A manic, lithesome thing, 2 Days in New York flexes between broad comedy and a beautifully observed portrait of family life – especially life after death. If the film’s storybook-bookends taste ever so gently of treacle … well, fuck it: This one had me at “allô.”